Laboratory requirements are rapidly evolving, and the needs of each facility are vastly different. Before the evolution of technology over the past few decades, the management and analysis of lab samples were both time-consuming and prone to transcription errors. Thankfully, the modern world has introduced custom in-house solutions, allowing for better lab efficiency, more accurate information management and, in the case of the healthcare industry, improved patient outcomes.
The features of laboratory software have evolved over the years from simple sample tracking to complex planning tools that manage multiple aspects of laboratory informatics. Here are some of the ways modern software can improve and enhance workflow in the lab.
Benefits of Laboratory Software
Modern laboratory information management systems (LIMS) allow lab workers to streamline their processes and increase efficiency in the workplace. Configurable solutions like Autoscribe’s Matrix software enable users to track samples and manage data within many different laboratory environments across a range of industries. These kinds of programs can match the exact requirements of each laboratory without writing any programming code, leading to longer system life and a better return on investment.
Aids Sample Management
One of the key challenges of running a laboratory is managing samples efficiently, hence why the core function of lab software has always been to aid this process. Modern laboratory software can register new samples at the point of receipt and produce barcodes to affix to sample containers. The software then tracks the chain of custody as well as the sample’s location at all times, as well as any freeze and thaw cycles that may be required.
Due to the differing tracking needs of each laboratory, software tends to be configured by the vendor with the laboratory’s adaptable environment in mind. Software users may receive regular inspections from the CLIA, HIPAA, GLP or FDA to assure their sample management solution remains compliant with industry specifications.
Handles Electronic Data Exchange
The growing volume of data collected and created in laboratories, plus the increased focus on business profitability, means that modern software has improved to handle electronic data exchanges more seamlessly. This process includes monitoring how remote sample data is imported and exported, as well as its integration with mobile technology. Many modern software programs also support real-time exchanges with electronic health records used in hospitals or clinical settings.
Supports Instrument Integration
There is a growing need for different instruments in lab settings, which is why modern software vendors now place increased importance on integration with lab equipment. The software may create control files that are then transferred to the instrument such as a sample tube or plate; the software may then import result files to extract data for quality control purposes.
Additional Software Functions
Aside from its key functions outlined above, modern laboratory software provides a number of other features that help improve workflow in the lab, such as audit management, compliance, barcode handling, inventory management, time tracking, report distribution and more. Modern lab software has earned a reputation for being too expensive and difficult to configure. However, newer systems (such as the software mentioned above) tend to be more adaptable, user-friendly and cost-effective.